It doesn’t bode well for a show’s development when the most apt way I could describe the relationship between the lead characters is “like Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in the Star Wars prequels, but with severe mental impairments and the likability of Nazi mosquitoes.” The only things separating these two from their counterparts in a galaxy far, far away is the rapid decrease in emotional investment, and a child who shares the name and the mental capacity of a certain K-On character. Hell, Kirito’s loss and sudden recovery of his hand isn’t even all that different from Hayden “my acting sparks with the intensity of a damp chunk of drywall” Christensen’s amputation. Anyway, on to discussing the actual episode, which has a slew of other problems.
But there’s a bigger issue than Kirito and Asuna having the chemistry of two mud bricks, and that’s the fact that Sword Art Online seems to have no fucking idea what kind of conflict it wants. While I can imagine that the Knights of the Blood Oath aren’t completely gone as a threat, it’s a little counterintuitive to have an episode where Kirito is forcibly inducted, then have him able to leave in the next after what I presume to be a sizable time skip.
Maybe it’s something that worked better in text or maybe more than a few scenes were left in developmental limbo, but going from forcible guild induction to a peaceful honeymoon by a lake (not doing wonders for disproving the Revenge of the Sith comparison, SAO), is pretty damn jarring.It would be fine if Kirito and Asuna got on with any kind of believability, but I’ve already established my stance on that issue, that the two have gone from getting together to virtual marriage in apparently the same amount of time that it’d take an amoeba to asexually reproduce. It’s not unheard of or even improbable, but it still isn’t all that compelling a romance.
The entire first half of the episode was so damn saccharine that I spent the whole time steeling myself for the ensuing fallout, abiding by the rule that if one half of a story has no recognizable conflict, then the second half must have the entirety of the Mongol horde descend upon the main character, pillaging their town and sowing the fields with salt. After all, the first rule of compensatory storytelling denotes that what goes up must crash and burn in an overly dramatic fashion, preferably with a sweeping film score.
But even that doesn’t happen; instead, Kirito and Asuna adopt a girl that they find in the depths of a forest and spend more time doing fuck all of relevance, feeding her spicy food and whatnot. The relationship between the three doesn’t feel like anything that reasonable people would have, just more of a vehicle for blatant wish fulfillment. Hell, it gives off the impression that the author only knows about romance and family from watching Key anime (and the Star Wars prequels), which is far sadder than it sounds.
There is conflict by the end, but it’s nothing but Asuna and Kirito defending kids from stock villains in an irrelevant and pointless fight, and Yui screaming really loudly for no reason before fainting, which I’m sure will be explained away in the next episode, but left residual feelings of confusion instead of anticipation. When a show’s somehow more boring with an actual struggle, something went wrong way down the line. This is the first time watching an episode where I’ve been actually bored, not just looking for nits to pick in an otherwise decent package. I remember that I bitched before about how I wanted there to be an actual, engrossing story. Now that this is apparently it, I kind of long for those carefree days again.